Simple Canapés (on a stick)

I have always loved entertaining. Part of my love of cooking is the delicious flavours and the accomplishment of making something wonderful, and part of it is very much the nice comments from other people. I suffer from an external locus of identity, sue me.

However, despite my desire to create ever more lavish dishes for my guests, there are times when you need something simple yet bursting with flavour. When you're catering for numbers or contributing to a buffet, these simple canapés on sticks are just perfect. Quick to make, easy to eat and pretty impressive to look at - you're sure to have your need for compliments satisfied if you pull these out at your New Years Eve bash (or at any other time of year!)

Insalata Caprese (on a stick)

ingredients

Chop up the mozzarella into little chunks (or buy mozzarella balls instead and save yourself the effort, if you can get hold of them) and toss them with some shredded basil, lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Chop your cherry tomatoes into halves. I just bought the cheapest ones they had, but if you're feeling fancy, tomatoes on the vine definitely do taste better.

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I'm pretty sure you don't need me to write this out - but pop one tomato half onto your cocktail stick, followed by a mozzarella chunk/ball and topped off with another tomato half. Repeat until all your ingredients are used up. One pack of tomatoes and mozzarella made about 30, so adjust as necessary for the number of guests.

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Lay out in a pretty pattern on a plate, drizzle over a little extra olive oil and some more shredded basil for presentation purposes.

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Pear Wrapped in Parma Ham (on a stick) with a Balsamic Reduction

This canapé sounds a lot more difficult than it really is - as soon as you say 'balsamic reduction' people will be impressed with your cooking skills. This is maybe a bit unusual, but the sweetness of the pear combined with the saltiness of the parma ham, on top of the sharp stickiness of the balsamic is absolutely divine. Trust me on this one. I only used one pack of parma ham and cut it into small chunks, but more is definitely better.

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The variety of pears is not of too much importance - I just used conference pears, but I would steer away from any that are too ripe or too sweet (such as a blush pear). To start, peel your pears and cut into bite size chunks. Roll in a slice of parma ham and secure with a cocktail stick.

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Pour a glug of balsamic vinegar into a pan and set on a medium heat. Keep an eye on it as it starts to bubble - you're waiting for it to reduce down and start to thicken into a syrupy consistency. This will only take a few minutes.

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Once this starts to happen, pour into a bowl - it will continue to thicken as it cools so don't leave for too long, you want it to be thick but not so thick that you can't even stir it! Place a dollop of the balsamic reduction onto the bottom of each canapé and place on a plate. If you have any left after that's done, drizzle the rest over the plate as artistically as possible with a sticky syrup!

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I tore up a little fresh rosemary to decorate the plate, but it's not vital. This one will raise a few eyebrows if you're not in a foodie crowd, but you will definitely be the person at the buffet who just wants to eat the food that *you* brought!

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What are you favourite canapés on sticks?